Goal 1: Integrate Health Promotion into Community Environments of People with Mental Retardation

The content in this publication was accurate at the time it was published, but it is not being updated. The item is provided for historical purposes only.​
“Health promotion programs should accommodate people with MR. Examples include smoking cessation, weight control, fitness, safe sex, drugs, and alcohol.”

As with other populations, health promotion and disease prevention are multifactorial for individuals with MR. They need to be empowered with adequate and understandable information and reinforcement to avoid health risks and maintain healthy personal habits. Their health care providers and the environments where they live, work, learn, and socialize should offer opportunities to inform, support, and reinforce healthy lifestyles. Routine preventive services, from periodic oral prophylaxis and restoration, to cancer screening, immunizations, and early intervention with emerging mental illness are critical to prevention of more serious conditions and secondary disability. Because of the potential for modeling behaviors, health-promoting knowledge and habits of personal care attendants and family members, co-workers, and others can help individuals with MR to protect and maintain their health.

Action Steps:

  • Wellness: Educate and support individuals with MR, their families, and other caregivers in self-care and wellness.

    Potential strategies: Adapt self-care and wellness programs designed for general populations and cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic minorities to the needs of individuals with MR. When proven effective, replicate existing programs for individuals with MR, especially peer-designed programs for wellness, self-care, and mental health. Evaluate the use of assistive technology and different media in educating and reinforcing healthy behaviors in individuals with MR, their families, and their caregivers. Develop and disseminate models for health care provider counseling and reinforcement of wellness and healthy behaviors in individuals with MR, their families, and caregivers.

    Potential topics: Nutrition and weight control; exercise; oral health; family planning; safe sex; strategies for protection from rape, domestic violence, and sexual abuse; maintaining treatment regimens; avoiding medication errors; recognizing and seeking care for emerging disorders; and age-related changes in, and risks to, health status.

  • Caregiver support: Develop and implement strategies for reducing care burdens for families of individuals with MR, and reducing high rates of turnover in nonfamily caregivers.

    Potential strategies: Identify stressors and sources of resilience in individuals with MR, their families, and their caregivers, and support strategies to enhance resilience. Support respite care, case management, advance (lifetime) planning for transitions to different stages of life and age-associated health needs. Provide assistance in caring for individuals with dual diagnosis, including family and caregiver training in behavior management and advance planning for behavioral crises. Provide technical assistance to families in information technologies, including how to use the Internet. Explore compensation, including basic health coverage, for family caregivers whose care responsibilities prevent them from working outside the home.

    Additional strategies: Provide training in health care, including supporting healthy habits, for personal care attendants and other caregivers. Create career tracks leading to certification of caregivers with regard to health-related competencies. Support basic health care coverage and increased compensation, commensurate with demonstrated health competencies, for caregivers.

  • Workplace: Protect the health of individuals with MR from occupational hazards.

    Potential strategies: Develop and disseminate modules to educate and train individuals with MR, their employment counselors and job coaches, their families and caregivers, their employers and potential employers, and occupational health and safety inspectors, in recognizing and eliminating hazardous working conditions that may require special accommodations for employees with MR. Potential accommodations include ensuring that employees with MR work in safe and healthful environments and understand how to avoid repetitive motion disorders and other occupational hazards.

  • Assessment: Assess the effects of health promotion and wellness activities for individuals with MR on their morbidity, secondary disability, mortality, life satisfaction, independent living, achievement of life goals, and cultural and ethnic identity.

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